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Countries which have not technologically or sociologically progressed through the years are considered under-developed. This means that most or much of the population still live as they did in past centuries. Most of the population lives in poverty and there are not enough schools or hospitals. There is not enough drinkable water and children in the regions still die from conditions which have been easily treated for decades in more advanced places of the world. As a whole, people living in Africa have the shortest projected life expectancy of anywhere else in the world. Despite a wide variety of natural resources which are available for human use and consumption, the continent of Africa as a whole remains heavily underdeveloped. The reasons for this continued underdevelopment are many and scientists and sociologists have endeavored to isolate these reasons to little progress, but most experts agree that the key explanations for Africa's underdevelopment are: the physical geography of the continent, "top down" factors such as post-colonialism and rampant corruption of those in positions of power, and "bottom up" factors which refer to the sociology of the population including ethnic differences which leads to violence between groups.
The geographical features which make Africa less likely to be developed include both the terrain of the continent itself as well as the inhospitable climate which covers most of the land. Features such as the expansive Sahara Desert in the north of Africa have served as a natural barrier, separating the people of Africa from the progression of other empires until the Europeans began exploring around 1500. Traveling into the continent's interior was highly problematic as the terrain made travel difficult and except for the Nile and Niger Rivers, the waterways on Africa were highly difficult for explorers to navigate. On the continent, there are also a large number of indigenous diseases which are bred and carried by creatures such as the tsetse fly which carries malaria among other conditions (Simensen 1). This fly affects humans and animals alike, particularly known to infect large working animals which could improve the agricultural field by plowing. A lack of such animals makes it harder for those working on farms to improve their lands as they can only plant and harvest manually without the use of plough horses or other farming animals.
Between the 14th and 20th centuries, Africa was heavily colonized by European nations. The continent was divided up and each portion under the control of a different empirical government. Populations were divided, even if they were from the same tribe because of where they lived in terms of the colonizers. In the 1960s, much of the continent was decolonized and the nations able to control their own citizens and rule under their own sovereignty. Centuries of marginalization and oppression were now relieved and the people free, except that the new governments were usually as corrupt and dangerous if not more so than the colonizers who had left (Simensen 1). The plan for many of the European nations was to teach the African people how to self-govern as they had not developed the ability to do this for themselves except for in their relatively limited population within tribes. However, the Africans were unwilling to wait for the Europeans to approve of their sovereignty when the opportunity for freedom was close at hand. This quickening of the timetable is arguably one of the reasons that the governments that did eventually come to power were backed by large militant groups; most of them earned their titles by bloodshed rather than political acumen (Rodney 278). The desire for independence came from the African people and as they had not naturally developed their nations over time, but instead had their boundaries forced upon them by their colonizers. Author Christopher Warburton claims that many of the factors which contribute to Africa's underdevelopment have to do with the regimes that are in control. Further, he says:
Four issues are therefore, key to understanding the evolution of underdevelopment in Africa: (i) the making of the contemporary African states; (ii) the perception that political authority is economic entitlement; (iii) the theory that ethnic and other social differences are power reinforcing, belief in which results in alienation and loss of hope; and (iv) the tacit recognition of illegitimate regimes in the name of national self-determination and sovereignty, or international law (Warburton 1).
From the perception of the historians and sociologists, it seems that one of the major reasons for the lack of development throughout Africa since the end of colonialism has much to do with the actual people of Africa. Too few people are in control of the rest of the population and those who are in power have neither the inclination nor the need to provide for their citizenry, creating living conditions where a vast minority is healthy, wealthy or well-fed and the majority is living in squalor and dying of curable diseases.
Part of the "bottom up" argument has to do with food sources; many of the African tribes survived because of hunting and gathering as opposed to farming or agriculture although farming was and still is a part of most tribes. Historically, civilizations based on agriculture for their food source were more easily adapted to the process of industrialization and being moved from the fields to the factories (Kling). It is much more difficult for populations used to hunting and gathering to adapt their lifestyles. Another aspect is the nomadic tendency of the populations of Africa. According to Jarle Simensen, Africans even in the modern period have the highest levels of migration of any continent (1). Peoples are continually migrating between regions and from urban to more rural areas. With the constant migration there is also the omnipresent threat of cultural clash between different groups, often resulting in violence between factions. In Africa, there are many different ethnic groups, all looking out for themselves. Historicists have found at least "900 separate language groups" (Simensen 1). Inability to communicate is another reason that different groups fail to build a harmonious nation and why there is so much infighting.
Africa is the most underdeveloped continent of the world, except for Antarctica. Despite many valuable natural resources, the land is still very much the same as it was in the past. Unlike other places where technology has improved the quality and longevity of lives, Africans suffer. Africans have the lowest life expectancy of any continent. They are also far poorer than other peoples of the world. It seems that the likely responsible factor regarding this tendency is the population of Africa itself. Instead of supporting growth and change, those in control keep the people in poverty and destitution, as well as rife with disease. Until the regimes change and the governments allow for progression, the African nations will likely continue to suffer.
Kling, Arnold. "Why is Africa Still Under-Developed?" Library of Economics and Liberty. Liberty Fund, 8 Oct. 2007. Web. 27 Nov. 2012. http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2007/10/why_is_africa_s_1.html>.
Rodney, Walter. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Nairobi: East African Educational, 2009.
Simensen, Jarle. "Africa: the Causes of Under-development and the Challenges of Globalization." - Regjeringen.no. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2012.
Warburton, Christopher E. The Evolution of Crises and Underdevelopment in Africa. Lanham,
MD: University Press, 2005.
First Body Paragraph:
Premise 1: The geography of Africa makes it difficult to socially progress.
Premise 2: Lack of waterways made it hard for explorers to travel inland in Africa.
Therefore: The interior was not as much colonized as the coasts of Africa because colonists could not get inland.
Inductive Reasoning -- strong
Premise 1: Flies carry disease. (A)
Premise 2: Diseases kill the people. (B)
Therefore: The flies kill the people. (A-B)
If the flies carry diseases and diseases kill people, then the flies kill people.
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